Elevation Church seeks Ballantyne expansion

Credit: Charlotte Observer

Elevation Church seeks Ballantyne expansion


by ELISABETH ARRIERO / Charlotte Observer


Posted on June 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 17 at 5:40 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Elevation Church officials will go before the Charlotte City Council on Monday to request a zoning change that would allow the church to build a location in Ballantyne.

“We’re right on schedule as far as we’re concerned,” said Tonia Bendickson, Elevation’s outreach and communications director.

The megachurch, which serves nearly 15,000 people weekly, recently raised $8.2 million during a capital campaign to open three new locations in the Charlotte area, including one in Ballantyne.

A private donation allowed the church to open a location in Toronto this year.

The Ballantyne location will be on 21 acres at the corner of Lancaster Highway and Johnston Road, bordering the Copper Ridge condominium community and across the street from an IHOP.

The church wants to construct a 264,000-square-foot building, which would include a 42,000-square-foot worship center with 1,600 seats.

There also would be a 22,000-square-foot children’s ministry facility and a 200,000-square-foot office if the city approves the plans.

The public hearing for the proposed zoning change had been scheduled for May 20, but church officials delayed it to conduct a traffic study on the development, said Charlotte City Councilman Warren Cooksey, a Republican whose district includes the proposed Ballantyne site.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation required the church to do a traffic study as part of the zoning petition, said Josh Blackson, Elevation’s expansion and operations pastor, who added that the church continues to have discussions with the department and the state Department of Transportation on the findings.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m. June 17, with the petition going before the zoning committee June 26. The petition will return to City Council on July 15 for a vote, said Cooksey.

Dickey Choate, a Copper Ridge resident, said she’s not concerned about the new development, “as long as they don’t encroach on my woods.”

Choate’s condo overlooks the wooded property where Elevation Church is expected to locate.

Choate said she has attended the church’s other location and has enjoyed its services, especially Pastor Steven Furtick’s dynamic sermons.

“Every time I hear him speak, it reaches me,” she said.

The contemporary church, which started in 2006 with seven families from Shelby, has grown dramatically in recent years. Outreach Magazine ranked Elevation the second-fastest-growing church in America from 2008 to 2011, Bendickson said.

“The growth has been unbelievable; it’s been tremendous,” she said. Today, the church has seven locations throughout the Charlotte region.

By the first few months of 2015, the church plans to open three new Charlotte-area locations – in Ballantyne, the Lake Norman area and University City.

“It’s a great church. I think they’d be good neighbors,” said Choate. “And it would be nice to walk through the woods and go to church.”